acne-causing heavy metals in protein powders – how a client’s own detective research cleared him up!

the team at skinSALVATION does a lot of investigating in order to find the safest and best quality foods and products to recommend to our clients to keep their skin clear long term. we absolutely love it when our clients become detectives in their own right and bring our attention to potential acne triggers that we haven’t discovered yet. yay for teamwork!!
recently, one of our savvy male clients, TB, came across this super interesting report on protein powders put out by an organization called, “the clean label project”. they “use data and science to reveal the true contents of america’s best selling consumer products. products are tested in an accredited analytical chemistry laboratory for 130 harmful environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins, and their results are published as product ratings.” the clean label project currently tests baby food, pet foods, and protein powders. there are some people out there that weren’t as impressed with the clean label project as we were and in an effort to provide all perspectives and information available. we want to share this link where the writer talks about some of the clean label project’s shortcomings and issues with it’s research.
TB, a very active vegan athlete looked up protein powders, and unearthed information on the one he had been taking – which looked acne-safe (meaning, it didn’t contain soy or whey or other acne-causing foods we look for). through this report, he found out more about its’ nutritional value, heavy metals, pesticides and mycotoxins and we were shocked by the findings.
CASE STUDY
TB came to us in september of 2017 with over-exfoliated, inflamed and picked-at skin. his clarity at the time was about 60% and 95% of the acne lesions that he did have were inflamed. being a gluten-free vegan, his protein options dramatically decreased after learning that he’d need to stop eating acne-causing soy in order to clear up his skin. on top of this, we discovered that he was likely suffering from a systemic candida imbalance after he scored high on this candida questionnaire. he decided to embark on a vegan candida cleanse but because the diet was so restrictive he only lasted on it for about 3 weeks. (generally, folks stay on this whole + natural foods diet for 2-3 months to clear up the candida. candida can cause sS-resistant acne, among other more serious long-term conditions).  he also started taking this anti-fungal candida control tincture which is the other necessary component to getting candida successfully and fully under control. (ideally, you need to avoid all sugars in your diet to starve the yeast, and supplement by taking anti-fungals to clean out and purge the excess yeast. there are many other components to this; check out our other posts on candida). he continued to work hard to avoid soy, sugar, gluten and eat as close to the candida diet as he could and we started to see his inflammation calm down and his clarity improve.
in addition to the dietary changes and supplement regimen, he was coming in for regular treatments and using our targeted skinSALVATION home care products. unlike most clients we see, his acne was really not extractable (he was too inflamed), so instead of focusing on extractions during his treatments we opted for chemical peels, high frequency (a machine that kills acne bacteria, reduces inflammation and speeds up healing) and 20 minutes under our LED panel to further heal the skin and combat inflammation at a deeper level.  we continued to do extractions where we could. by his 4th treatment on november 26, 2017 he was 80% clear and showing vast improvement in terms of inflammation and overall skin health. by january 21, 2018, he was 95% clear. check out his amazing transformation below!
THE PROTEIN POWDER DISCOVERY
after moving away from the bay area, TB reached out to us, letting us know about the clean label project study. he had been taking vega protein powder every day, even several times a day for about 6 months before seeing us. his skin had got really bad, super inflamed with very deep cysts in april-aug 2017, around the time he starting taking the vega protein powder.
at his consultation appointment in 9/2017, his clarity was 60% and most of that was the inflamed and cystic type of acne. he was baffled as to why his skin had gotten so bad over the last few months when really nothing had changed. looking back we both really think that this protein powder is the main reason it got so bad. another major factor was probably physical stress from all the intense working out he was doing at that time – he himself said his body looked it’s best but his skin looked it’s worst!
we didn’t think of the protein powder to be a major acne-causing factor for him at the time because the ingredients seemed acne safe (no soy or dairy/whey) – and he was eating so much soy up until we told him how much soy breaks all of our other clients out. shortly after his first treatment at the end of 9/2017, he started the candida cleanse, had two colonics and backed off the protein powder because he wasn’t working out as much anymore. we started to see a big improvement in his skin towards the end of november, 2017 at his 4th treatment and it quickly improved from there. by january 2018 (3 months after first starting with us) he was 95% clear and has been able to maintain that after moving away from the bay area.
through the clean label project’s research, vega was found to be one of the worst rated, containing high levels of toxic heavy metals (!!!). after sharing his story of clarity working with sS on social media, several folks on social media contacted him regarding vega protein powder, citing similar acne experiences while consuming the same thing!
here are some interesting facts from the study to note:
  • organic protein powders had on average 2x the heavy metals than conventional ones
  • egg protein was the cleanest with the least heavy metals/toxins
  • plant-based powders were on average, the most toxic
  • 75% of plant-based tested most positive for lead (they are doing more research on how and why toxins get into these foods so stay tuned for another post once this research comes out)
after reviewing the study findings, we are no longer recommending vega protein powder to our clients and we are currently looking into safer options. so far we have found the following to be acne-safe and clean-project-label-clear on paper, but have yet to actually see clients through using these powders for an extended period of time:
protein source: hemp protein
EAT REAL FOOD
it’s also important to keep in mind that protein powder is a dietary supplement which may be helpful in a pinch, but is not going to be the best option to replace actual real whole natural food meals humans should be eating every day. remember, these are SUPPLEMENTS and NOT everyday meal replacements! instead of making a protein powder shake your daily go-to breakfast, try some of these quick + easy, make-ahead options instead:
steel-cut, gluten-free oatmeal topped with hemp seeds and fresh berries (you can easily no-cook this by soaking them them overnight in the fridge, they’ll be ready in the am)
sprouted grain toast and eggs
hardboiled eggs, fermented veggies (like saurekraut or kimchi) and avocado (super easy to get ready the night before)
avocado toast with kite hill “cream cheese”
avocado and sugar-free lox
low sugar granola and unsweetened almond milk (kim loves this over cut up papaya)
TAKEAWAY

a mantra from kreation organic juicery in the LA area – you are what you eat. don’t be cheap, fast, fake or easy!

tomato sherpa: local, organic, and acne-safe

for a lot of people, one of the hardest parts of transitioning to the acne-safe lifestyle is figuring out how to eat. one day you’re happily cooking your macaroni and cheese or tofu stir fries, and the next day you’re not supposed to be eating dairy or soy.

cooking at home is one of the easiest ways to control what you eat, and make sure you’re getting healthy, nourishing food. but, for some of us, cooking doesn’t come, shall we say, naturally.

enter tomato sherpa. tomato sherpa is a berkeley-based company that sources local, organic ingredients, preps meals for you, then delivers it directly to your office (or, you can pick it up at sS on thursdays!) each week they have new recipes (most of which are totally acne-safe) that you can choose from, with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. all you have to do is select your meal, pick up your reusable tomato sherpa tote, then cook! all of the heavy lifting is done for you, and you can be sure the ingredients you’re getting are locally grown, sustainable, and organic.

if you sign up for a subscription at tomatosherpa.com/skinSALVATION, you’ll get a free week. there’s no obligation, but at between $7 and $10 per portion, it’s a super affordable (and fun) way to cook at home, so why not do it every week?

i had the chance to try it out last week when my friend vera was in town visiting from new york. i’ve never been a particularly skilled cook, and vera hasn’t turned on her stove in 6 months, but still we managed to make a pretty awesome meal — and have a great time.

check out our experience making vegan curried cauliflower with coconut rice below, and if you want to try this particular recipe yourself, download the recipe card and get cooking!